Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal

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Roseway Requiem

In autumn

we quietly slow down.

Night begins in the afternoon.

Old joints grow stiff and creaky.

With a great sigh,

oaks and maples let go of their leaves.

A cold east wind tears through my bones

as fall turns into winter.

Not everyone made it this year.

My decrepit old dog breathed

his last goodbye:

A private loss, while one Saturday

a black smoke cloud darkened the sky

over the Roseway Theatre fire.

The fumes lingered for days.

She was magnificent,

the finest thing in our neighborhood.

For nearly a century she showed

one movie at a time.

Among the multiplex chains everywhere

she stood proud.

The whole neighborhood mourns.

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A Kitchen Moment


In the north window, one last orchid
wilts and falls: a shriveled moth.
Phalaenopsis, it’s called.

The plant rests–
flat, sturdy leaves like cows’ tongues.
I watch for a new sprout
but orchids take their own time.
They never hurry.

After a late frost, beyond the window
roses leaf out in an explosion of green.
Rosebuds appear overnight.
Solomon’s seals are even quicker–
An inch or two in a day.

For the orchid,
one millisecond lasts an hour,
progress of sap through xylem and phloem
too slow to imagine, while in my veins
my own blood hurtles.
Time gets away from me
but the orchid rests in its own time.

I tear open a cellophane “Kumato” package–
tomatoes all in a row. I pull one out,
dark brown with hints of green, and
like the orchid plant, it came from a greenhouse
and has never known a garden.
I slice it over a bowl
to catch every bit of the sweet juice.
A bit of salt, a sprinkle of black pepper.

Now is the only tomato there is.

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The Long Wait is Over

Zen Flowers Kindle

Kindle Version

Late Tuesday night, I checked the Amazon site one more time. The Kindle version was there at last. I ordered it right away and uploaded it to the Kindle app on my iPad. I was afraid it would be a jumbled mess, but it looks fine. What a relief!

Both versions are now available, and Zen Flowers is officially launched.

What, and who, will I write about next?

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CreateSpace and the Transitory Nature of All Things

From Zen Flowers: Doug circles the flower arrangement on my coffee table, contemplating the broken horsetail stalks and red petals scattered over the ebony wood surface. I cleared everything off the table for maximum effect and moved the completed arrangement from the kitchen into the living room. The cat hasn’t destroyed it yet; if she does, it will merely reflect the transitory nature of all things.
Doug frowns. “Looks sort of grim. What’s it about?”
“Impermanence.” I shrug, like it’s not important.
“Uh, say what?”

Zen Flowers, also the title of my upcoming book, is a florist shop. Sabina, the owner and a Zen practitioner, is all about impermanence after the many losses she has experienced.

The irony of it. I expected CreateSpace, the publishing platform I have used for my past three books, would be the same. Writing Zen Flowers was hard. I was trying to tie up all the threads created in the first three books in the series and leave my characters in a good place. It was sprawling and disorganized, and I despaired of ever publishing it. I told everyone it was a hot mess and put it aside for a few months before I went back and rewrote the whole thing, and revised, and edited… and finally, it all came together. I thought I was done with the actual book. I uploaded it to CreateSpace, had them assign it an ISBN number, and called them to order a new cover and the same beautiful interior formatting they had given my previous books, part of what they called their “professional services.” I thought I was done, but that wonderful CreateSpace staff has been laid off, and the formatting and cover design are gone, even though they are still offered on the website. Everything is changing.

Since then, nothing has run smoothly. CreateSpace didn’t like the cover, even though it was the same resolution and exactly the same file size as the previous covers CreateSpace had done. It took three uploads of the same cover, with different complaints about each one, before they accepted it, and the book went to print.

The Kindle version was a similar experience, and another formatting nightmare er… challenge. And the cover? This time they said it wasn’t RBG, whatever that is. A couple more uploads of the same file, though, and it was fine, but I’m still waiting for the Kindle version to show up for sale. This sort of thing is a serious (brutal) lesson in impermanence. Amazon, once a boon to indie authors, is not as friendly anymore.

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Upcoming New Book

Front Cover JPG

Available soon!

“She lost her family, and now her relationship is over, too. Can a woman be more alone? Sabina doubts it. But she’s living her dream. Zen Flowers, her West Village floral shop, is hers if she can only keep it afloat… and that’s turning out to be a big problem.

Brendan was blindsided when Sabina told him it was over. She wanted to start a family, but he’s terrified of the responsibilities that come with children. His life wouldn’t be his own anymore. But going on without Sabina? He can’t bear that, either.

Swamped with book offers after a harrowing hostage experience, photojournalist Niall starts writing. It’s harder than he realized, and he longs to be out on assignment, traveling the world. He doesn’t know yet that his ex-wife is about to arrive with an ugly secret that could leave his family in ruins.”

It has been a while since I posted; between Zen Flowers rewrites, walking 10,000 steps most days, and gardening (the weeds are relentless), my days have been full. Finally, the book was ready. Amazon has always walked me through the process of getting my books out for people to read, and I called them to order a cover design and have them format the interior–what a nasty surprise. They no longer do that; they have changed to a “do it yourself” model. The tech support person did email the names of a few companies that do design book covers.

Suddenly, “Indie publishing” really became indie publishing–a huge challenge for the likes of me.

Totally derailed, I freaked out for a day or two. Then I decided to try and format the actual pages myself, as I had already uploaded the manuscript before finding out they wouldn’t format it. It was incredibly complicated and took days of endless trial and error, but I learned how to format a book in Microsoft Word–not the design application of choice, but it was all I had. After researching book design companies, I ordered a cover. I received the cover design this morning and couldn’t be happier!

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Goodbye Sapphire 💙

On a Monday, in the dark, wee hours of the morning, the dogs jolted me awake with a barking frenzy. Shortly after they quieted, someone knocked at the door and set them off again. I froze for a minute, scared. I thought someone was breaking in. Then I decided I’d better have a look around. I got out of bed, quickly dressed, and went to the door to see if anyone was there. I looked out the window and saw Sapphire, my blue Toyota—wrecked—and another car. I thought the knock had been the person who hit my car, but it was a police officer. He told me there’d been a hit and run. Bill across the street heard the crash and got up in time to see the SUV that hit my car backing all the way down the street, fleeing the scene in reverse. Bill called the police.

My car was demolished. The SUV hit it head-on at a high speed and smashed the front end and pushed it maybe 50 feet so it was blocking the driveway next door.


It was not a good way to wake up.

The insurance company sent over an appraiser, and a tow truck came the next day and took Sapphire away. I felt, and still feel, just sick about it. It was a wonderful car and would have lasted the rest of my life. It had low mileage on it and from that standpoint, it was still practically new. It didn’t deserve what happened to it.

I tried to console myself. The car was grungy after the wet Portland winter, and I’d been about to make an appointment to have it detailed. It needed gas and was due for DMV renewal. It would be worse if it got wrecked after I forked out all the money for that. And I’m very, very glad I didn’t total the car myself. The last time I totaled a car, I was devastated. This time, it wasn’t my fault, and I was able to buy another Toyota. I told myself it could have been a lot worse.

I had to get all my belongings out of the car and say goodbye. I was sad; that car was my horse and she was a wonderful, loyal steed. Ever since I saw the movie, “Powwow Highway,” with Gary Farmer, my cars have been horses, with names. Gary Farmer’s car/horse was “Protector.” My blue Corolla was “Sapphire.”

It was hard to switch to car-buying mode. I had to think about what I wanted. I do most of my driving around town and need something economical. I now have a Prius. It’s a bluish-gray-green color called “Sea Glass.” I decided online that I wanted that color, and they only had one “Sea Glass,” so I lucked out. Compared to my previous cars, this one is a thoroughbred, a racehorse. I named it “Sea Biscuit.”

Sea Biscuit

My old car was a 2004, and cars have changed. Sea Biscuit is totally digital, a computer on wheels with an unfamiliar OS—like my first Windows or my first Mac, only with driving, seriously pushing the edges of my comfort zone. Lying in bed, I remembered that I decided a long time ago to do things outside my comfort zone as often as I can—and here is my chance! I discovered that when I take my time and pay attention, driving the new car is really no problem. Just different.

Farewell, Sapphire. You were the best car I had, and I’m so very, very sorry.

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Walking with Ramona


When I was in fifth grade, my teacher, Mr. Glod, brought me a book called Otis Spofford. “I think you’ll enjoy this,” he said. I mostly read books about horses, especially Marguerite Henry’s books. I doubted I’d enjoy this one, but Mr. Glod turned out to be right. I loved Otis Spofford. The book was about a mischievous boy and his hilarious mishaps. It was by Beverly Cleary. She hadn’t written many books yet, but I read everything she had. The books were set in a Northeast Portland neighborhood near Grant Park. I loved reading about Henry Huggins and his dog, Beezus and Ramona Quimby, and Ellen Tebbits. Ramona ended up becoming the main character in the books set in that neighborhood, but when I was reading them, she didn’t have any of her own books yet. I never forgot the kids on Klickitat Street, and years later, when I moved to Portland, I would walk along Klickitat Street and try to figure out where they would have lived.

This last Christmas, I received a wonderful little book, Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland, by Laura O. Foster.

There’s a wealth of Portland history in that book, as well as a walking tour and map showing where various events in the books took place. Beverly Cleary, then Beverly Bunn, lived in that neighborhood in the 1920s and went to the elementary school on 33rd and Hancock, which has since been named after her. She based her stories on her own childhood. I took the tour one frigid, windy afternoon. Then, for the first time, I read the Ramona books. These books are amazing. Beverly Cleary remembers exactly what it was like to be an elementary school child, and her vivid stories brought back my own vaguely remembered school days.

When the Bunns left their farm in Yamhill to move to Portland, their first house was in the Sullivan’s Gulch area. That house is no longer standing.

Their next house was in my own neighborhood, on NE 77th Avenue. Beverly’s parents didn’t like the icy Columbia Gorge winds that we get here, so they moved near Grant Park after one year.

img_3052 The NE 77th Avenue house

I plan to do the walking tour again now that I have read the Ramona books. For now, I located the two houses in this neighborhood where the Bunn family lived. The first is on Hancock Street, the “Klickitat” street in the books. She changed the name because she liked the name “Klickitat.”

img_3048 The NE Hancock house

The Bunns moved to this house on NE 37th Avenue when Beverly was in 7th grade.

img_3050 The NE 37th Avenue house

Beverly Cleary also wrote two memoirs, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet. The second book ends when she wrote her first book, Henry Huggins. She is now 100 years old!

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My friend and I ate here for the last time today.


I will miss this place. Gustav’s pub and adjoining Rheinlander restaurant will be closing its doors after 53 years. I’m not sure of the reason, but sadly, nothing lasts forever. The turreted, half-timbered building is a Northeast Sandy Boulevard landmark, the place to go when you want German comfort food. I have dined there with friends and family so many times, it’s sad to imagine the neighborhood without it. It’s cozy and comforting like a big hug, and I included it in my upcoming book, Zen Flowers, before I had any idea it would be closing.

In this excerpt, Brendan had bad news. He’s broken-hearted and his brother Niall, the narrator, has just picked him up at the airport:

My stomach growls, reminding me that it’s well into the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since breakfast early this morning.

“I heard that,” he says.

“Are you hungry, Brendan?”

“He gives me a sideways look and his mouth twists. “What do you think?”

“Stupid question,” I say. “Sorry.”

“I could do with a beer, though,” he says.

“That can be arranged.” I turn off 82nd onto Sandy Blvd, heading for the closest brewery, but at the last minute, I change my mind. Gustav’s, the German pub across the street with its cozy bar, all heavy dark wood and dim lighting, would be more comforting. I pull into the parking lot behind the turreted, half-timbered building, and we get out of the car. Brendan lights a cigarette and takes a deep drag. We go around to the front of the place, taking our time while he smokes. He puts his cigarette out in the ashtray by the entrance, and we go inside.

The blonde waitress grabs a couple of menus and shows us to one of the side booths. We both order Spaten Optimator; dark, rich, and elemental.

Brendan takes a long pull at his, then another, and begins to relax. “Thanks, Big Brother,” he says. “This place is a balm for sore nerves.”

I nod. “I know. They have a lovely shepherd’s pie here, if you change your mind.”

“Think I did just change my mind.”

I watch him across the table. The fire has gone out of his eyes. I hate seeing him so subdued. The waitress is eyeing him, too—actually both of us. We look alike, both a bit worse for wear like shipwreck survivors. She’ll be wanting to take care of us; women are funny that way.

We both order the shepherd’s pie, chunks of meat in brown sauce, covered with mashed potatoes and melted cheese. I order the sausage platter to split between us, and when the food comes, we dig in.

“Ah, this is grand, Niall,” he says, and drains the beer in his glass. “Thanks for putting up with my morosity. It means a lot.”

“Goes without saying.”

Cozy booths inside Gustav's.

Cozy booths inside Gustav’s.

The bar.

The bar.